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Philippines: Killings of rights defenders continue amid COVID-19 spike, economic recession

Statement by Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER) |
August 18, 2020
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Fight Back News Service is circulating the following statement from Labor NGO: Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).

Rampant harassment and terroristic acts by the state towards the people made it clear that the Duterte administration does not aim to resolve all the crises brought out by the pandemic, according to Labor NGO Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER).

EILER firmly stands with all the peasant rights defenders and demands accountability for the brutal killings of Randall “Ka Randy” Echanis, 72; Reken Remasog, 24, and Zara Alvarez, 39.

Ka Randy was a peace consultant and genuine agrarian reform advocate. He was murdered in the wee hours of August 10 in Novaliches, hours after the World Indigenous People’s Day.

Reken was amputated and shot dead by the elements of 62nd IB of the Philippine Army last Friday, August 14, 2020, in Sitio Maluy-a, Brgy. Sandayao, Guihulngan City, Negros Oriental. Zara, a known peace advocate, peasant rights defender, and churchgoer, was shot dead at 8 PM yesterday in Eroreco, Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.

Moreover, Reken’s younger brother, Reniel, 17, was illegally arrested with two other minors namely Meriam Benero, 17, and Mary Ann Pesculado, 15. All young rights defenders are currently detained and in the custody of the 62nd IB and are facing trumped-up charges.

The Philippines is considered the deadliest country in Asia, and second-worst worldwide, for environmental and land rights defenders according to Global Witness. Almost half of the activists killed since the President took control were national minorities, farmers, and environmental defenders from basic sectors. Also, for the fourth time in a row, the Philippines is one of the ten worst countries for working people due to numerous labor rights violations, according to the ITUC Global Rights Index. Prior to that, from 2014 to 2016, the Philippines has also been included in the Global Rights Index list of countries with no guarantee of labor rights.

The country is now experiencing the worst economic recession in ASEAN as Philippine economy shrinks 16.5 percent in the second quarter according to Philippine Statistics Authority.

“Using the pandemic as a guise to attack critics, activists and ordinary people is the main response of the Duterte Administration,” EILER Executive Director Rochelle Porras said.

“The reports on the 22.9 percent and 15.8 percent plunge in the industry and services sectors respectively is just a tip of the iceberg—more than 27 million workers are displaced, hundreds of thousands are infected, and the legitimate demands of the people are being tagged as subversive. Ka Randy participated in peace negotiations and was active in advancing the proposal for the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER) that is an essential part of the workers’ movement towards national industrialization,” Porras added.

“We are one with the family and friends of the slain rights defenders in mourning. We must put an end to the attacks and violence perpetrated among our rights defenders and workers. We strongly support the demand for justice and accountability,” Porras concluded.

Justice for Randy Echanis, Reken Remasog and Zara Alvarez! End state fascism under Duterte administration!

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